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I want it all, and I want it now!

Portable power has come a long way in the last few decades. Electrical products have become increasingly smaller due to the development of battery technology enabling people to use their tools freely without the need for mains power. But up until now even the best batteries have had their limitations, with long charge times meaning they are not always ready to use when needed. So, will a new breakthrough from a team of US scientists “change the way we think about technology”?

It’s a big claim and relates to a technique known as ‘Beltway’ which allows the battery to charge and discharge much quicker than current devices. And by quick, the research team from Massachusetts Institute of Technology mean small cells can be charged in 10-20 seconds.

Rechargeable batteries at the moment are limited by the speed at which the ions move through the lithium iron phosphate. However, the MIT team discovered that by coating particles of lithium iron phosphate in lithium phosphate-glass, the ions managed to find the passage through much quicker, allowing the battery to charge and discharge at break-neck speed.

This obviously has big ramifications in the consumer electronics market, paving the way for quick mobile phone and laptop charge-ups, but the technology also has wider possibilities from power tools to renewable energy sources and electric vehicles. In fact, despite the PR promoting the technology as a potential consumer market revolution, the main advantages will for the time being be restricted to industrial applications, as most domestic homes will not have the capacity to charge such a battery pack in seconds without expensive modifications.

The good news is that production of these batteries could be put in place within two years as the manufacturing process is relatively similar to current methods, so we may have to wait until then to see for certain if ‘Beltway’ batteries really do change the way we think about technology.

Personally, I feel this is somewhat unlikely, although I am intrigued by its potential for smoothing away some of the major deficiencies of portable power we have at the moment. Modern life seems to promote impatience and this technology would appear to tap into the need for accessing power in a more immediate fashion, which is something that will be demanded as people grow tired of waiting several hours for their raft of battery operated products to become useable.

But doesn’t 20 seconds sound like an awfully long time?

Enjoy the newsletter,

Richard Scott

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